On Becoming and Being a Good Parent

To be a parent is not only to be the mother or father of your child or children; a parent must also be a student of society and continuously evaluate society’s impact on the family. Throughout history, being a parent meant assuming the responsibility of raising your children to become autonomous, well-functioning members of society. This human value has been fairly consistent over time. On the other hand, society continuously evolves and changes and the impact it has on the family system is open for interpretation. Parenting does not come with a guidebook, a blueprint, or a warranty. Parenting encompasses all the joys of becoming a mother or a father and, as well, embraces the trials and tribulations of the evolving society that impacts the dynamic parent-child relationship. Being a parent fifty years ago was clearly different than being a parent at the turn of the 21st century. In fact, single-parent homes, blended family, working mothers, same sex parents, teenage mothers and fathers, latch-key kids, and in vitro fertilization either were considered taboo or not even part of the popular language. Today, being a parent comes in many forms and raising a child in a traditional “two parent / intact family” is no guarantee for success.

Because we live in a culture where societal boundaries are less clear and the distinctions between reality and fantasy less evident, we, as parents, often opt out on values on raising our children. Instead, we tend to employ control, consequences and punishment as methods to establish order in our families’ lives. Parent control without a foundation of morals, ethics and values fosters mistrust in the parent-child relationship. Being an effective and positive parent means creating a personal strategy that allows you the freedom to parent from a position of strength of character, fullness of heart, and knowledge and understanding of one’s place in time.

On becoming and being a parent is a process. It often begins with dreams and visions of idyllic times ahead. Then, reality sets in. We may be confronted with countless, sleepless nights of a colicky baby, a child teased and bullied on the playground, an academically unmotivated teenager, an oldest child going off to college, or an adult child returning home to live with you. Our dreams and visions may quickly turn to feelings of anger, worry, shame and guilt. As we question our competence, we should not perceive it as a sign of weakness, but rather a signal to develop new strengths. Becoming and being a parent means developing a parent strategy that incorporates your sense of values, your understanding and appreciation of popular culture and how these effect you and your children, and your ability to navigate the parent-child relationship.